Have you ever wondered what it's like to welcome a newly-arrived refugee or asylum seeker into your community? Emma is one of our Welcomers in Derby. Here's an insight into some of her experiences of welcoming people from across the world to her city.
Hello, pleased to meet you.
My name is Emma. What’s your name?
How are you doing?
Have you ever tried to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak a single word of your language? This was the case for one of my first Welcome Box visits. It is from this moment, whilst clutching a box full of love, compassion, vulnerability, hope and friendship, I realised the impact I could have on the lives of refugees and asylum seekers.
Welcoming refugees and asylum seekers is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done but also one of the most challenging. Nobody can prepare you for what the next few moments hold as you’re stood waiting on the doorstep of a stranger, waiting to greet them for the first time with the Welcome Box. It’s an emotional experience meeting somebody who has fled their country. I will never understand what many of our neighbours have been through to get here but, I can offer a friendly face and open arms into a community that will welcome and support them in this part of their life.
In this venture to befriend and welcome refugees and asylum seekers to the city, I assist with integrating them into their community helping with any of the basic needs. This includes registering with the GP, optician, orientation within the city and introducing them to Upbeat Communities, where they can gain access to other areas of support such as free English lessons, skills classes or attend a family group. Undoubtedly, you face challenges along the way and in these moments, you have to rise up even higher. This is where I found myself becoming my neighbours’ biggest advocate. I have had to fight prejudice to get my friends registered with a GP and ask difficult questions regarding access to foodbanks in the most sensitive way but all of this becomes possible through the relationships you build.
The friendships I have made are a two-way investment that nobody could have prepared me for. Sharing one another’s culture has been one of the highlights of my friendships however, not one that I was necessarily anticipating or prepared for at the beginning of the journey. There is no training to assist with explaining what Bovril is to a family with Halal requirements; nor did I anticipate learning the ‘correct’ way to receive a cup of Turkish coffee without offending somebody of the Albanian community. These experiences however, have been priceless in our vulnerability with one another and building friendship. I’ve also been able to share my own language and learn bits of new languages along the way; including Farsi, Albanian and Russian.
Ultimately, it’s a journey. Whilst being a Welcome Box volunteer I’ve experienced mountain top highs and valley lows which have made for the most rewarding experience. Making new friends amongst situations that are otherwise petrifying is incredible. I get to walk into some of the darkest moments of peoples’ lives and offer community, friendship and the hope of Jesus. What an honour.